Abstract：The Doctrine of the Mean, a Confucius classic, has been translated into numerous Western languages over the centuries, with each translator providing their own interpretation. It goes without saying that an individual’s interpretation is inextricably linked to his or her cultural identity; additionally, cultural identity may have a significant impact on translations. Numerous well-known translators of The Doctrine of the Mean, including Roman Catholic missionary Michele Ruggieri in the sixteenth century, Protestant missionary James Legge in the nineteenth century, contemporary philosophers Roger Ames and David Hall, and the “cultural eccentric” Dr. Ku Hung-ming, all produced distinct translated versions rooted in their cultural identities. Ruggieri and James Legge literally translated tian, the concept in the source text, as “caelum”, a Latin word, or “heaven”, respectively, to ensure the equivalent meaning, at least linguistically, for a concept that is assumed to be unrelated to the Catholic or Christian God. They did, however, note in textual annotations that “caelum” or Heaven in Chinese culture is equivalent to God in the West. The numerous translations of this concept are determined by its translation philosophy, which is based on its own cultural identity. To the extent possible, Roger Ames and David Hall seek to replace western philosophical discourse with Chinese philosophical discourse in order to preserve Confucianism’s true meaning. They also, as it turns out, fail to transcend the constraints of Christian cultural identity. They “must do more than study Chinese traditions; they must work to transform them into a cultural resource capable of enriching and transforming our own”. Their motivation for translating Confucian Scriptures is a desire to advance their own culture. Dr. Ku Hung-ming declared emphatically his identification with Chinese culture in the preface to his translation of The Doctrine of the Mean. He translated the central concepts or words of the original text by quoting or adapting famous quotations from western thinkers in order to elevate the value of Chinese culture. This can be interpreted as a rational balancing of acceptance and restriction within the target culture. While this may distort the meaning of the original text, it is a plausible approach to the exchange of ideas between China and the West during a particular historical period.Although the translators’ cultural identity does not negate their desire to respect the original text, this desire is expressed primarily at the language level. When the fundamental concepts of the source and target cultures clash with each other, their cultural identities become immediately apparent. Not only does the cultural identity of translators manifest itself in the translation of Chinese classics by western translators, but also in the translation of translators with a Chinese cultural identity, as demonstrated by Dr. Ku’s translation, which emphasized cultural commonality over idiosyncrasy. The translator’s cultural identity is a recurring theme in the translation of the Confucius classic.The translation of classical Chinese texts is a social and cultural practice associated with a specific historical epoch, and its ideological content and form are determined by the Sino-western cultural relations and historical stage at the time. The translation orientation of classic texts establishes the goals and strategies for translation. On this basis, there is no need to resolve the conflict between the source-oriented and target-oriented translations.Discussing translation strategy selection or the gain and loss of translation orientation for classical texts without mentioning historical context is a one-sided way of understanding translating. The textual analysis of The Doctrine of the Mean reveals an intrinsic connection between the translator’s cultural identity and the interpretation of the text’s central concepts, as well as a connection between the translation strategy and the objective reality of history and culture, which will aid us in resolving the theoretical dilemma of Sino-Western cultural exchange.
吕世生. 《中庸》的多译本解读与译者文化身份认同研究[J]. 浙江大学学报(人文社会科学版), 2022, 52(3): 62-71.
Shisheng Lü. Distinct Translations of The Doctrine of the Mean, the Confucius Classic and the Translator’s Cultural Identity. JOURNAL OF ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY, 2022, 52(3): 62-71.
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